Thursday, February 7, 2008

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands was the last port of our 12 Night British Isles / Norwegian Fjords cruise before returning to Harwich, England. It was a rainy day as we arrived in Amsterdam but that didn't dampen our excitement to explore this fabulous city.

Our day began by taking a short walk from our ship to a canal boat owned by the son of one of our traveling companions. Our guide showed us Amsterdam from the best vantage point of all, the canals.

Many people live on their canal boats which were docked along our path. It is an amazing sight to see flowers, lawn chairs, and other items that one might expect in a back yard, on the decks of these small boats. Traveling through the canals we'd see canal boat after boat on display as if in a contest. Of course, we knew better, they were simply homes on water that were decorated so that the inhabitants were comfortable.

Our first stop was at the Willet-Holthuysen Museum where we explored this 17th century mansion that shows how the wealthy lived in Amsterdam canal houses. We had a self-guided tour of the various art collections inside the old mansion. There were beautiful chandeliers, stained glass windows, and crystal on exhibit.

As you can see from this picture, we were able to view the gardens through the stained glass windows. For more pictures inside the museum, see our Amsterdam photo album. After we left the museum, we began the walking portion of our tour. We walked through the Red Light District, which is quite famous. You are not allowed to take photos once you are in the heart of the district. This is the oldest portion of the city.

Continuing our walking tour, we arrived at the Royal Palace on Dam Square. The picture on the right shows the interior of the palace. We've been to many palaces on our cruises, but this was one of the most impressive palaces we've seen. The Crystalline Chandeliers are amongst the most magnificent we've ever seen for example. The detailed marble interior, the massive hallways with towering ceilings, the various artwork and artifacts kept us in awe the entire time. Again, see our photo album for pictures inside the palace. If you have never been to Amsterdam, I'd highly recommend a visit to the Royal Palace.

After finishing our tour of the Royal Palace, we continued our walking tour of Amsterdam to another of the famous attractions, the Floating Flower Market. It was raining as we walked through the various shops in the market. We probably didn't spend as much time there as we would have if the weather were nicer.

We purchased some tulip bulbs to take back home. It is possible to bring the flower bulbs home to the United States as long as they have an inspection certificate on the package. When we arrived back in the U.S., we declared the bulbs, showed them to the customs agent, and had no problems. Unfortunately, we did plant the bulbs but the squirrels dug them up in the winter, so we never did see them bloom.

We walked to one of the nearby canals and once again boarded the canal boat for the final leg of our tour. The Jewel of the Seas was an awesome sight as we approached the pier. We had had a fabulous day in Amsterdam, despite the weather.

In a future article, I'll write about our second visit to Amsterdam where we explored more of this fabulous city. That time we had much more time because we spent two days there before our North Cape cruise. See our Cruise Website if you can't wait to read about it here.

Next up, I'll take you to the land of French Polynesia. The weather here is cold and snowy so I thought it would be fitting to talk about something warm and exotic.

Until then, happy sailing.

No comments: